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All the news fit to share. A proposal by Will Tucker
The past two years have transformed the student newspaper at the University of Alabama. Today, we are a central hub of information sharing on campus and have the web traffic, Facebook subscriptions and Twitter following to prove it. The print edition remains crucially important as well, serving as the definitive record of campus events and the community’s stories. The change has brought the newspaper into the new decade and has vaulted us into national college media awards conversations. This rise is a direct result of our success at sticking to the Crimson White’s primary goal: providing campus a service by sharing accurate, timely and relevant information with members of the community. We’ve crafted unique content. We’ve built a community. We’re engaged and we’re useful. Now, the goal is to sustain what we’ve attained. For sustainability, we need a model that keeps the CW strong across three equally important platforms. Each of these three platforms will a.) distribute our content and b.) further invite the reader to engage with the other two platforms. We also need to continue the clear vision of personnel management with which we’ve succeeded in the past and a vision for each desk. By doing this, we can remain the premier information sharing service our community has come to expect us to be and maintain a sustainable presence on our users’ smartphones and computers as well as in print.
The CW has changed.
OVERVIEW: What’s new Emphasis on print design The App Petitions Projects Video desk Culture desk Staff structure
To sustain the CW’s print service, we must stress forward‐thinking design, regularity of coverage through a viable beats system, and high‐quality enterprise reporting that further adds to the public record of the University of Alabama community. MAKING DESIGN A PRIORITY Readers will pick up a paper that looks clean, novel, and thoughtfully designed. With integration of the new workflow system, CW designers will have more time each day to devote to thinking about design—and we’ll use that extra time to plan ahead. Aesthetically pleasing design necessitates aesthetically pleasing graphic elements and photography—graphic art. To attain this, CW photographers who have proven their conventional talent will be encouraged to use advanced photography techniques and experiment creatively. For instance, basketball photos are nearly always vertical, severely limiting what designers can do with the photos on the front page. Everyone’s seen the dunk photo before. One fix could be to take a panoramic photo of the court, then stitch the photos together in Photoshop to create a horizontal photo showing the whole team, contextualizing the action. We can use this type of innovation to tell a truer story—a basketball game is not just one player making a dunk, it’s a team game with more emotion. (Figure 1A).
Photographs can also be used more actively in producing titles for series, etc. After the tornado, we used a design element inspired by Al Jazeera English’s coverage of the Arab Spring to design section heads of the first print edition after the storm.
We need graphics to visually represent large amounts of data, and make obvious correlations that aren’t apparent from a block of raw information. How we achieve this: 1. Recruit the absolute best talent possible. This means more than sending out a “graphic designer needed” Tweet. This means targeting the best students and inviting them to have their work published. 2. Plan ahead. Not every photograph can be the amazing centerpiece photo, but we should plan ahead and make it happen. We’ll have more time to work on design with the integration of NewsEngin. 3. Write the stories that need graphics. Without a block of information, you can’t make a graphic like Figure 1C. To show correlations and relationships, we have to find them first. To sustain this new emphasis on design, we’ll need top‐quality journalism that attains the right, relevant information. INTEGRATE NEWSENGIN The demand for innovation in design would necessitate one resource more than others— time. We have the capability to seriously increase our productivity by utilizing the bought‐ and‐paid‐for web‐based workflow system that we currently have. NewsEngin has its flaws, but by keeping with it we can ensure that less time is spent writing headlines and more time is spent laying out the page. QUALITY REPORTING – A STANDARD FOR OUR JOURNALISM As the University of Alabama’s public record, the print edition will remain the primary outlet for written content produced by the CW. The Crimson White has attained
over the past two years a level of legitimacy unmatched in its recent history. We must maintain that. Several guidelines have helped us with our reporting of serious issues and breaking news so far, and we must maintain them—they are the sustainable, tested strategies that we should begin to institutionalize in the CW and college journalism as a whole. “Factors and Elements.” Drawing from a legal concept, we adopted this philosophy after @TheCrimsonWhite sent a tweet that 8 students had died in the tornado on April 29. April 30 was spent scrambling to find the necessary information to substantiate our report. To ensure this never happened again, we adopted the philosophy that information that isn’t available on the surface, or that someone may actively be trying to withhold, or that is under general speculation or doubt must pass a test before we can report it. This prevents us from doing something I think too many journalists are doing today—giving a party with intent to mislead the public the same space and value in a story as the researched and proven fact. The test, established at the beginning of reporting on the subject and unchanged throughout the process, determines whether the condition of the information—how we got it—meets one of several predetermined “factors” or all of several predetermined “elements.” If the information passes the test, we can report it as true. Factors are difficult or unlikely conditions to obtain, like the announcement of funeral arrangements in the case of a death, first‐hand accounts, confirmation from three immediate family members or a press release from an official source. Elements are easier to obtain singularly but just as difficult to obtain as factors in the aggregate, such as social media posts, confirmation from 3 friends or family and inability to reach the person after 24 hours.
Series on controversial topics. Once we have this test established, we use it, again and again. This is the essence of good journalism—keeping with it, and remembering the Watergate story. We also need to keep the standard of reporting on a story before we editorialize on it as an editorial board—the Victor Rule. Then, the editorial piece becomes a part of the series.
KEEPING THE FOCUS ON THE CE TEAM The Community Engagement team is the glue that holds our online operation together. The community manager gives a face and a point of contact to our entire web audience. We must keep the emphasis on maintaining a good presence on social media that actively seeks a relationship with our readers, mainly our 13,000 Twitter followers. A Social Media stylebook Currently, we have a system of best practices that ensures that our community manager and those operating our Twitter handle in breaking news situations maintain a singular, recognizable “voice” on social media. We need to consolidate this list of best practices into a verifiable style guide with codes on how to link to stories, how to engage viewers and conduct conversations, ensure that AP style remains the basis for all tweets and maximize “character economy” working under the 140‐character restriction. Setting a goal From the beginning of Fall 2011 to date, @TheCrimsonWhite grew from around 8,600 followers to around 13,000 followers. Our goal for the next year will be to increase from 13,000 to 16,000 followers. INTERACTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND INFOGRAPHICS Expanding our multimedia. We have the ability to make interactive multimedia pieces using web tools like Google Maps and Storify. These may be created as standalone pieces for the web, but usually we will aim to make them companion pieces to the print story. Our goal with these pieces will be to create content with viral potential in UA’s corner of the Internet. VIDEO DESK Videos and alternative story formats that use video clips are exclusive to the Crimson White’s website. We will tease to them in print and use QR codes to promote them, but they are perfect pieces of content to keep our social media presence engaging. Again, they will be intended to go viral among students. Style guide People will share good‐quality videos. Videos that utilize creativity and tell good stories have the potential to go viral on campus. Therefore, we’ll begin to follow a format for our short, storytelling videos and abide by a video style guide (outlining the use of title cards, 7
intro sequences, audio editing,) etc. to make sure our signature CW brand is apparent in the videos. Shortdoc format 1. Tell a story in two minutes, with a complete three‐part dramatic story arc: exposition, conflict introduction, conflict resolution or cliffhanger. 2. Generally have only one or two characters and recap events or express one person’s feelings about a subject. 3. Follow an observatory documentary format: no narration, the character speaks for himself or herself if at all. Documentary format 1. Five to six minutes in length. Three‐part story arc, but with multiple characters— protagonists and antagonists introduced. 2. No narration, but the validity of each character’s statements are cross‐examined and challenged. The conflict comes from differing views challenging each other. 3. Dramatic story arc—exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution. 4. Utilizes more skillful camerawork—for time economy, framing, B‐roll, and devices like the rack focus should have intentional symbolic meaning as much as possible. Hybrid story form The online version of stories taking this form this will integrate short, 10‐ to 15‐ second video clips that illustrate what the writer is describing using code developed this year but yet to be utilized. CONTINUING THE AL.COM PARTNERSHIP Maintaining our blog on al.com—already in effect—has a huge effect on the perception of our brand. When the CW publishes a big story, people across the state may be interested in what is going on. With our blog, the al.com content manager is one click away from putting an aggregation of our story on the front page of al.com—a site with millions of viewers daily. In the past, our aggregations on al.com have generated hundreds of comments and high web traffic back to our site as readers click to read the full story on our site. A paid employee will make sure that content is uploaded consistently every day.
Ultimately, the app will have four basic functions: 1. Share content. Users will be able to read all the news and opinion content in the print edition on their mobile device. 2. MyCW. This will be a platform for students to submit content to the MyCW user‐ created blog. The App will utilize mobile devices’ camera functions to allow users to take a picture or video and immediately post it to the blog. This furthers our casue as a news organization by further engaging our users and giving them a platform from which to speak about what they view as news. Additionally, imagine if we’d had this capability during the aftermath of the tornado. Will be curated by the App editor.
3. Petitions. Following the successful model of Change.org, users will be able to start and sign petitions on the app and online. This will promote community engagement by the CW—if a user reads a column or story and feels strongly about the issue discussed, he or she can immediately start a petition to cause change. The Crimson White will regard the views of these petitioners in the same manner with which we regard the views of columnists and letters to the editor. Petitions will consist of an online form that requests a full name, email (asking students to use their crimson accounts for the sake of collecting UA vs. off‐campus signee data), and street address. The app and the website will both allow users to comment on the petition and share the petition page via social media. 4. Projects. (Submissions by App only) Following the model of Good.is projects, we will solicit users’ solutions to problems we write about. The Ferg is overcrowded? The project that month could be to “Redesign the Ferg’s floorplan.” We would encourage our community to use the app’s camera function to send pictures—which we curate—that they’ve sketched in class, and run the most successful one (decided by our editorial board) in print. ‐ Project ideas: 1. Redesign the Ferg layout
How do we accomplish this? The app is already in early stages of development. Code is available from Boise State’s campus newspaper that would provide us the groundwork we need, and we will hire a computer science developer as the App Editor to create and maintain exactly what we want. App Editor The need to curate content uploaded via the app, adjust settings and make sure everything runs smoothly, as well as work with the social media team in breaking news situations to solicit content from users will be great enough to add an employed editor position. This editor will work immediately under the Online Editor.
Section II: Raising our standard again
The CW must raise again the standard set by Victor Luckerson in 2009 for the content we produce. Additionally, we need several structural changes to reflect our goal of becoming viable across the three platforms. A BEATS SYSTEM A system of regular communication between writers and each corner of campus has eluded the CW for too long. Real beats will be established and reporters will be expected to write a story from their beat at regular intervals. How we achieve this: Conventional communication is crucial. Additionally, we can and will create lists or accounts on Twitter that follow only students, faculty, and student groups associated with a beat, and use them to observe the activities and interests of the beat. BREAKING NEWS SITUATIONS In breaking news situations, we will follow the model that organically occurred following the tornado. ‐ Roles will be determined by what each person has the ability to do at that minute, and the EIC will be responsible for allocating resources accordingly. ‐ The Community Engagement team will be brought into action immediately, and begin working to produce tips and contacts as well as “factors,” if necessary. ‐ The Online Editor will work to oversee the Community Engagement team and contact the news editor, who will be responsible for either providing someone to produce content or producing it himself or herself. The goal will be to update the website as quickly as possible once the “Factors and Elements” test is passed, and the Online Editor will see this through. DEFINITION OF ROLES
Editor‐in‐Chief Managing Editor Production Editor Opinion Editor Magazine staff News Editor Assistant News Editor Assistant News Editor Sports Editor Assistant Sports Editor Culture Editor Assistant Culture Editor Graphics staff Design staff Visuals Editor Photo Editor Video Editor Documentar y Specialist Coverage Specialist Multimedia staff Community Manager Assistant Community Manager Online Editor App Editor Copy editor
Web Editor Assistant Web Editor
Editor‐in‐chief Ultimately responsible for everything disseminated, printed, and shared by The Crimson White. Serves as the public face of the organization. The EIC must produce and maintain a sustainable system for personnel management and ensure that each hired editor, manager and assistant executes their job to the best of their abilities, making adjustments as needed. He or she must identify the needs of the staff and respond accordingly, providing each employee with what they need to carry out their job. Articulating a long‐term vision and ensuring sustainability and quality also fall under the responsibilities of the EIC. Works 2 nights per week until the end of production. Managing Editor Will oversee day‐to‐day production of the newspaper and report to the EIC on personnel issues, production progress, as well as the long‐term projects such as documentaries, special projects, magazines, and series. His goal should be to see these long‐term projects to fruition and ensure that the print edition makes deadline nightly. Will participate on editorial board and must work 3 nights per week until the end of production. Production Editor Will coordinate the activities of the Opinion desk, News desk, Sports desk, Entertainment desk, and the magazine staff—responsible for all stages of the production of copy content. Must work 3 nights per week until the end of production. Will ensure consistent content through the maintenance of the beats system across the three major desks, and focus on improving the quality of writing produced Visuals Editor Will design the front page and special design projects daily. Responsible for the coordination of graphics, photography and design staffs and making the three work together accordingly. Will plan feature pages and ensure that the content is produced on time and done to standard. Will assign videos, multimedia, and photos weekly. Will also make sure clean design and images appear on the website daily. Works nightly on his or her specific tasks. Online editor Will be responsible for all aspects of the online edition of the Crimson White daily. Must coordinate the activity of the Community Engagement team and work closely with the Community Manager to carry out campaigns to increase the CW’s reach on social media and recognition in the community. Will number stories daily for the website, communicate with the web editor and ensure that each story is published accordingly. Must coordinate Projects and carry out campaigns to promote the app. Will also coordinate with al.com to build on the relationship we’ve already started. Works nightly on his or her specific tasks. Chief Copy Editor The chief copy editor will manage the nightly rotation of copy editors and work across platforms to ensure that CW content is in line with our style guides (video, social media, 11
print, AP style.) He or she will also lead the effort in ensuring accuracy through fact checking and flawless grammar, story structure, style and word economy. Opinions editor Will coordinate weekly columnists and be responsible for recruiting new columnists. He or she will also ensure a balance of views, and ensure that the popular opinions around campus are all expressed. The Opinions Editor will also take part in managing the Petitions and Projects sections, deciding when to integrate aspects or products of those operations in the print edition. He or she will recruit and manage a cartoonist and be responsible for the production of Page 4 nightly, working with the Production Editor when necessary. News Editor The News desk represents the consolidation of City, Administrative Affairs, and Campus desks. News stories will be tied to events—reporters will preview and cover all events not covered by the Culture desk, that is to say, those not dealing with art, music, food or identity. Working with two assistants, the News Editor will be keenly in tune to what’s going on at Alabama throughout the year and produce content accordingly. The News Desk should produce approximately 10 stories on a daily budget. Sports Editor The Sports Editor will ensure that every sport on campus as well as intramural sports is covered in accordance with demand. Football coverage will be expected to include extensive features on players, coaches, media coverage of the football team or fans, student and otherwise, and the Sports Editor will take an active role in producing Gameday Magazine with the Magazine editor. Culture Editor The renaming of the Lifestyles desk comes at a time when the coverage of campus and Tuscaloosa culture needs more focus. The name change should do just that. The Culture Desk will cover aspects of campus involving art, music, food and identity (racial, sexual, socioeconomic, etc.) The section will also provide commentary and write definitive feature stories about identities and lifestyles that are timely only in the broader context of our generation. (News will still be responsible for feature stories linked to events, like the race issue in Greek life and the event, a black woman rushing a “white” sorority.) The Culture Editor will maintain this coverage, beats, and produce feature ideas and see them through to publication. The Lifestyles Desk should produce approximately six stories per day on a daily budget. Video Editor The video editor will aid in editing raw footage obtained by his or her videographers, as well as producing video content of his or her own. Additionally, he or she will balance short‐docs, documentaries, and HSFs (see “Video Desk”) and produce one video, etc. per day. Community Manager
The Community Manager, with the assistance of his or her staff, will manage the CW’s social media presence—Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, Vimeo (to be created). He or she will also serve as a main point of contact for the community with the Crimson White, organizing promotional efforts and events. See “Keeping the focus on the CE team” for more. App Editor See “The App” section for a description. The App editor will manage all aspects of the app and its interaction with print and online editions of the CW. Web Editor The Web editor will work to maintain cw.ua.edu, designing and coding different designs when necessary and ensuring that stories appear on the website in an appropriate order and layout nightly.
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